The Halloween season may have passed, but don’t drop the scary tales during the transition from pumpkins and apple cider to cookies and hot cocoa. As the frostier weather wanders its way into our lives and warmest sweaters, somber stories and gothic horror most accurately fit the mood. There’s no better time to read about the unknown lingering within the mist and fog, the eerie silence of snow, or brutal wind and rains, than during the threat of winter’s first bite.
And while horror feasts on the unknown, not everything about the genre must remain a mystery. USA Today’s best-selling atmospheric horror author, Darcy Coates, has kindly agreed to share her experience in writing and publishing her mountain of mystifying material. Whether an avid reader of dark tales or a fellow writer, Coates’ insight and advice is sure to spark your passion for the paranormal and stir your fascination for all things dire, deathly and dreary.
1. What inspired you to tell your first story? When did you first start writing?
All of my oldest stories are lost to the void of broken hard drives, but I’m pretty sure I took my first serious stab at writing around fourteen. I only managed a chapter before becoming distracted! Later, I became infatuated with the online world of Creepypastas and wrote a handful of my own. The bug bit, and when self-publishing appeared as an option for sharing stories, I jumped on it.
2. How did you move from self-publishing to traditional publishing?
Todd Stocke from Sourcebooks reached out to me. I’d been independent for a few years and publishers had contacted me before, but Sourcebooks just felt right. I’ve been with them for a year and couldn’t be happier.
3. A lot of characters in your books are in their twenties. Is that by design? If so, why?
I turned thirty this October, so a lot of my characters have gone through the same journey I have (just with extra ghosts)! The twenties are a strange, vulnerable time; you’re technically an adult with full responsibilities, but still vastly unprepared. Mix all of that uncertainty with an external threat–a monster or a survival situation or a malevolent ghost–and a character is forced to either prove themselves, or crumble under the pressure.
4. What is a repeated theme in your books?
“Finding Home.” It’s not always a physical home, but it’s more about finding the place you belong in the world–a set of lifelong friends, or a job you love, or a purpose.
5. How did you feel when all of your books got picked up by a publisher?
Absolutely amazing. I was cautious at first; Sourcebooks was offering to publish all of my current titles with a contract for an additional three. It seemed too good to be true. But they’ve been brilliant. They’ve gotten my books into so many stores, including one near me in Australia, and have been supporting the titles in a way that I couldn’t on my own. We recently signed a contract for five future books in addition to what we already have planned.
6. What is your writing routine like? How do you manage to stay inspired?
I love to write in cafes, especially if they have outdoor seating. It’s probably a placebo but I like to imagine that the fresh air and natural light helps me think. I drink tea compulsively. If I need to pause and think, I take a sip, so I always keep a cup next to me. I’m very lucky that inspiration is never a problem. I have too many stories and there’s not enough time to write them all. When I think of an idea I like, I jot it into a “concepts” document and save it for later. Slowly, over months or years, small ideas can grow into something more significant. The story that I’m writing next has been waiting for its turn for three years, but a key element slid into place last month and it’s now ready to be brought to life.
7. What are some of the tropes used in horror writing that you hate?
I’m not a fan of “dumb” characters. If you’re home alone and the power goes out, please don’t explore the basement, no matter what strange noises come from it! While repeated bad decision won’t necessarily ruin a story, I really prefer books where the characters make the “right” choices. If the character locks the basement door and calls a friend but the intruder still gets them… well, that’s a lot more frightening, don’t you think?
9. Which of yourbooks is your favorite and why?
Ha! That’s a hard question! I love all of them, and often for very different reasons. The Haunting of Ashburn House is a reader favourite and has sold more than any of my other titles. But I’m also fond of Hunted for the wild ride it gave me during writing, and The Carrow Haunt for my favourite (so far!) concept. Finally, Parasite; it’s a sci-fi horror and not a big seller, but it was pure stress-packed joy to write.
There you have it! Inspiring words from the rising star and horror queen, Darcy Coates, on her experience of writing in the scariest genre! Check out her plethora of perplexing novels, and don’t forget to enter for your chance to win them in the Creepin’ It Real giveaway. The incoming cold and cozy winter storms are all the more inviting when devouring the terrifying and tantalizing. Get prepared for the chilly season with Darcy Coates’ teeth-chattering gems!
feature image via twitter (@darcyauthor)